The House of Knytlinga ruled Scandanavia in the Middle Ages. In 1013, King Sweyn Forkbeard invaded England to expand his kingdom. He displaced Saxon King Ethelred the Unready and established the House of Denmark. Following Forkbeard’s death, Ethelred and his son Edmund Ironside returned briefly, but Forkbeard’s successor Cnute the Great emerged to remove the House of Wessex from power. In the end, Cnute and Edmund Ironside split the kingdom between their two houses. Edmund died mysteriously a short time later. This removed the last true obstacle to Knytlinga rule. Officially, Cnute united the crowns of Denmark and England and the House of Knytlinga became the House of Denmark. The Danes ruled England for three decades until a third Wessex restoration in 1042. The Danes attacked again in 1066, but were decisively defeated by Harold Godwinson. The following are the four members of the House of Denmark that ruled England for about three decades.
The House of Denmark
The House of Knytlinga originated in Denmark and spread to England. Four members of the house became English kings. The foursome ruled the island kingdom for nearly three decades. The dynasty is largely forgotten in the wake of the Norman Conquest.
Sweyn Forkbeard (1013-1014)
Historians have difficulty reconstructing Sweyn Forkbeard’s backstory. The information is largely contradictory or missing. Sweyn did invade England to avenge the St. Brice’s Day massacre. At first, he carried out raids on the English, but eventually chased King Ethelred the Unready off the island. He was declared king at the end of Christmas Day 1013. He ruled for five weeks.
Canute the Great (1016-1035)
Sweyn Forkbeard’s son, Canute, assumed the throne, but Ethelred returned to reclaim the throne for the House of Wessex. Canute gathered a large invasion fleet, landed in Wessex, and battled Ethelred’s forces. King Ethelred’s son, Edmund Ironside, did the bulk of the fighting. After Ethelred died, Ironside and Canute split the kingdom between them. Edmund Ironside died shortly thereafter. Canute the Great ruled England for nearly two decades.
Harold Harefoot (1035-1040)
Canute the Great died in 1035. His youngest son, Harold Harefoot, assumed the throne. Harold received the monicker “Harefoot” for his hunting prowess. Technically, Harold’s brother Harthacut, was supposed to become England’s king. However, Harthacut needed to remain in Denmark as Norway threatened invasion. Like Harthacut, Harefoot faced an external threat. The House of Wessex invaded in an attempt to reclaim the throne, but were repulsed. By this point, the old Anglo Saxon nobility preferred the House of Denmark to Ethelred’s descendents. Harold died in 1040 at the age of 24.
Harthacnut planned to invade England to steal the throne from his half-brother. However, Harefoot died before the invasion took place. Originally, Harefoot was to serve as regent, but the pair eventually clashed. Once in power, Harthacnut ruled autocratically, increased the English military, and dramatically raised taxes. Worcester rioted and Harthacnut ordered its destruction. The king’s despotism lasted only two years. He suffered from tuberculosis and died in 1042.